Rebel X - Star Wars Secret Cinema review

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Wow! What a night!

If you are a fan of Star Wars then no doubt you will have seen the viral videos and clever placement of ads all over Facebook (If you are in London at least). If you haven't then let me set the scene for you. Secret Cinema organise events throughout the year involving the screening of classic movies in secret locations around London. Rebel X takes this experience and immerses you in the movie more than ever before. The movie in this case being Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. (Only the best film in the trilogy, yes trilogy we will pretend that the prequels never happened on this site)

Perhaps the experience was even more intense for me as it was a surprise organised by my fiancee and I only found out as we arrived at the train station for our designated rendezvous. We quickly changed into costume, cleverly concealed by the aforementioned fiancee, and we were whisked away by a member of the Alliance. It is at this point that I will warn you there may be SPOILERS ahead, I will do my best to avoid them but sometimes there may be an item or two that slips through without me realising.

Rebel X gives everyone the opportunity to live out their childhood fantasy, you get to become a member of the Rebel Alliance for the night. If this was not your childhood fantasy then you didn't live, unless you dreamed of being part of the Empire in which case you may have had a very warped childhood.

From the moment you leave the station you become part of the Star Wars world. This is accomplished through props, actors and a large amount of audience participation. As a group the whole Star Wars community here in London seem to have taken this project to heart and this really brings the event to life. While costumes are not a must I have to admit that there were only one or two people who hadn't dressed for the occasion. From little Jawas (Utinni!) to "aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper" kids to adults dressed as rebel pilots I found the cast of hundreds of guests to really make the event special. Yes, actors bring some of your favourite characters to life but it's the guests that bring the world to life.

A word of warning to anyone who does attend. Until you reach your first world there is a distinct lack of bathrooms. So if you need to go then it is probably best to do this before you enter. Additionally, there are no cameras allowed (and so there are a distinct lack of pictures for this review) and you have to seal up your phone. I thought this was a good thing, although you don't get the chance to take the memories with you, if everyone was walking around with their phones and cameras out it would have ruined the illusion that the Rebel X guys and girls were trying to create. Finally, you are not able to take any food or drink in with you, and you can only pay on card once you are inside, so make sure to finish all refreshments before you enter and have your Galactic Credits easily accessible.

Once you reach the first location you get the chance to grab a bite to eat and there are drinks available in locations that have been lovingly recreated. While some food items are expensive the drinks are reasonably priced and you will want to get a few of them as it does get quite hot at times. If I could recommend one item to eat it would be the pork dumplings on offer in the far right corner of the first location, you will see a recognisable vehicle nearby to let you know that you are close to the right food stall.

You will spend the majority of your time in this first location but the time flies by quickly as there is so much for you to do and explore, also keep an eye out for interesting individuals walking around. There is the opportunity to trade with some of the actors and they all stay true to character throughout.

The second location also has a lot to explore but we did find it difficult to get around as it felt a bit more crammed and less organised than the first location. If I get the chance to go back again I will definitely take some more time to look around this area.

As the evening continued I found myself forgetting that we were actually there to see a movie! The world, so lovingly created, truly draws you in and you can easily forget about the real world you have left behind. I have heard people describe it as a "theme park for adults" and that is very true. I have spent my fair share of time playing, and working, at Walt Disney World in Florida who pride themselves on creating a bubble you live in while you are at their parks and Rebel X achieve the same feeling, if on a smaller scale.

With the main event, if you can call the movie that, drawing near Rebel X have one final surprise for you. 15 minutes before you start to make your way to the movie screens they hit you with a big bang of entertainment that leaves you hyped up for the movie you are about to see. John Williams' music booms out of the speakers and you feel like a kid again getting to go see The Empire Strikes Back for the first time again.

The massive screens, there are 3 separate screens to make sure everyone gets a great view, are set up with ceiling mounted projectors but they don't lose the quality. A warning to all Star Wars fans like me, this is the 2004 special edition version of Empire but it is the least heavily edited of the three so George Lucas didn't really ruin it as much as he did with some of the others (Damn you Hayden Christensen). You get another opportunity to buy drinks and snacks here with a bar set up to your left, if you are facing the screens, and there should be enough seats to make sure that you can sit with all of your party.

As the movie starts up expect a cheer from the crowd as they once again get involved in proceedings. Even those in attendance who aren't massive fans of Star Wars will struggle to avoid a cheer the first time Han appears on screen, or boo Boba Fett or any other number of key moments in the film. You are drawn in and as you are surrounded by the dedicated Star Wars fandom you can take your lead from them.

I must admit that one drawback is the price of admission, GBP 75 a ticket, which does sound quite steep for a visit to the cinema. But you can clearly see that the majority of this has been reinvested in the product on offer, it is also a similar price to a number of tickets to West End shows and you would not get the same immersive experience in the theatre, although these can be good too. Having to pay for food and drink is also a bit of a downer, but as everything is served in a way to keep you in character it doesn't feel like it is a total money grab.

To close out, I would highly recommend that you attend this if you get a chance. Doubly so if you are a fan of Star Wars. You don't have to be in costume for the event if you don't want to but, honestly, you do not need to be worried about the embarrassment of being in costume at this event, 99% of the people there with you will also be in costume. Throw away your British sensibilities, let your hair down (or put it up in doughnuts if you want to feel like Leia for the night) and just re-live those days  where, as a kid, when you dreamed of grabbing a lightsaber, fighting stormtroopers and flying an X-Wing or the Millenium Falcon into battle against The Empire. I still do!

May the force be with you.



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